Reviews for Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children

Booklist Reviews 2009 July #1
Nothing is what it seems in this contemporary spin on Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm. Sol, an 11-year-old sci-tech buff, and his sister Connie, a mischievous 8-year-old, are new to the town of Schoneberg. Things feel awry in their new home. Especially puzzling is their strange neighbor, whose dog carries an odd-looking bone, and their parents' suspicious behavior. After conducting some library and Internet research, as well as a daring exploration of their neighbor's house, they realize the horrifying danger that they are in. A nasty confrontation leads to a tension-filled escape that requires their full wits and courage. Evoking Roald Dahl's The Witches, McGowan's edgy debut novel incorporates magic, clever references to the original tale, a cast of diverse characters, and Snicket-esque narration. The witch's interspersed journal entries, including the opening chapter, How to Cook and Eat Children: A Cautionary Tale by the Witch Fay Holaderry, breezily, and ominously, set the book's dark tone. Periodic shadowy illustrations add unsettling eeriness to this open-ended story that will likely draw fans of shivery, suspenseful mysteries. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Spring
"I love children. Eating them, that is," begins this contemporary "Hansel and Gretel" refashioning. Sol, eleven, and Connie, eight, have just moved to Schoneberg with their father and stepmother. The story of these resourceful siblings who escape the clutches of the crone next door (her journal entries are interspersed within the main text) has both humor and suspense. Black-and-white illustrations add atmosphere. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2009 July #2
In this mordant contemporary remake of "Hansel and Gretel," 11-year-old Sol and his little sister Connie find out the hard way that their next-door neighbor is a centuries-old witch. Readers know what's in store for Sol and Connie right from the riveting opening line, which is taken from the witch's deliciously detailed diary: "I love children. Eating them, that is." She never goes hungry either, because there are always misbehaving children being "donated" by weary parents--or snagged by one of the witch's secret allies, of which the town librarian is one. Though evidently unfamiliar with the traditional tale, Sol, a genius with electronic gear, and his even more clever little sib quickly figure out that something's wrong and launch an investigation. Not that that keeps them out of the witch's clutches…. McGowan doesn't follow the traditional plot very closely but he does include some folkloric elements. He sets up a credible chemistry between the children and gives the witch her say through her diary, which punctuates the narration. Tanaka's occasional full-page views of grim, heavy-lidded figures add a suitably gothic tone. Yum. (Fantasy. 11-13) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 October #1

McGowan makes a strong debut with this contemporary recasting of Hansel and Gretel, starring 11-year-old Sol and eight-year-old Connie Blink. Based on the notion that today's parents could be tempted to deliver their children into the hands of a cannibalistic witch, the story relies on Sol's intelligence, scientific acuity and talent for research, as well as Connie's subtle cunning, deviousness and confidence in Sol, to defeat their parents' plot--and, eventually, the witch. A spine-chillingly humorous opening by the witch--"Derek was a great disappointment to his parents. He didn't disappoint me, though... baked with secret ingredients, and served with my very yummy, homemade key lime pie"--alerts readers to the upcoming dangers; the later revelation (again, for readers only) that Mr. and Mrs. Blink are not who they seem adds further suspense. Tanaka's sophisticated shaded-pencil drawings, presented in full-page bleeds and plentiful spot illustrations, create a disturbing, mysterious aura and enhance the sense of danger. Shades of Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket hover over McGowan's tale, but up-to-date touches such as cellphones and the Internet make it especially accessible and appealing for thrill-seeking readers. Ages 9-12. (Sept.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2009 October

Gr 5-8--A modernized version of Hansel and Gretel, with a few creepy, cannibalistic references. Sol, 11, and Connie, 8, move to Schoneberg with the man they believe is their father (he is their father's twin) and their stepmother. The children soon discover that the neighbor's pet dog has a habit of digging up human bones, and that "Dad" has a great motive for wanting them gone. The story alternates between the siblings' dawning understanding that nothing in the town is as it seems and the journal of their neighbor, a witch, in which she reminisces fondly about her past meals, including a Silence of the Lambs moment in which she enjoys one child "cooked with capsicum and washed down with a fine mead." Highly stylized illustrations do much to enhance the story. Readers of Dan Greenburg's "Secrets of Dripping Fang" series (Harcourt) may enjoy this tale. Readers of Donna Jo Napoli's The Magic Circle (Puffin, 1995), a more psychological Hansel and Gretel variant told from the witch's point of view, will find this is a very different retelling.--Kathleen Meulen Ellison, Sakai Intermediate School, Bainbridge Island, WA

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